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The Secondary Break: Thursday’s Links

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Legendary sportswriter Dick Weiss reinvents himself after layoff (Sports Illustrated)
Back in may the college basketball media was stunned by the news that Dick “Hoops” Weiss was laid off by the New York Daily News after more than two decades of service. But thanks to the support of many and some new opportunities, Weiss has been able to adapt to the changing times and as a result remain a fixture in sportswriting.

Former Cougar star Jackson Emery shares insights on 2011 team, Jimmermania and more (Deseret News)
As part of a three-day series on the 2010-11 BYU Cougars, the Deseret News spent some time with former BYU guard Jackson Emery to discuss that season. It was a special campaign for the Cougars, who were led by Jimmer Fredette and reached the Sweet 16. And for all the fun that group had, there was also the feeling that had they gotten past Florida the Cougars were capable of making a run at the national title.

Self: Too soon to make call on college basketball rule changes (Topeka Capital-Journal)
Add Kansas head coach Bill Self to the list of coaches who aren’t sure if the new rule changes are beneficial to college basketball. But at least he’s willing to see how this all plays out as the season progresses.

Nancy Lieberman honored for contributions to women’s basketball (NCAA)
On Wednesday the NCAA honored Nancy Lieberman, one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, for her contributions to women’s basketball. Lieberman, whose son T.J. is sitting out his transfer season at Richmond, will be honored Final Four weekend at the Naismith Trophy Welcome Brunch.

Gophers having fun in Richard Pitino’s system (ESPN)
With the shift from Tubby Smith to Richard Pitino, Minnesota’s playing at a faster pace than they did a season ago. And predictably the players are enjoying it, with their most recent result being a win over Florida State on Tuesday night.

It’s time to double our pleasure with Providence/Rhode Island rivalry (Providence Journal)
On Thursday night in-state rivals Providence and Rhode Island will meet in Kingston, and according to Bill Reynolds the two teams should start playing each other two times per season. New Mexico and New Mexico State do this currently, but it will be interesting to see if this idea gains any traction within the PC and URI camps.

With Marshall Henderson in town, Kansas State hoping for better basketball crowd (Kansas City Star)
Say what you want about Ole Miss senior guard Marshall Henderson, but he’s an eye-catching player due to the shooting ability and the histrionics that come with it. And Kansas State, which hosts the Rebels on Thursday night, is hopeful that the combination of a polarizing player and a national television audience will result in a spike in attendance.

Video of the Day: Another BYU Promo
In advance of their home game against Prairie View A&M next Wednesday BYU’s recorded another lip-syncing video, with four players taking on the challenge of 98 Degrees’ “It’s All Because of You.” (h/t Sporting News)

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.